Many of us spend a lot of time working on computers as part of our jobs, studying and our everyday routines. It’s not just computer time, it’s screen time. Screen time also takes into account the use of tablets and mobile devices and televisions, not just computers.

The fact that much of this screen time may be online is irrelevant. Screen time is screen time regardless of what we do and view. Last week, we reflected on all things digital in 2020, we looked at a few good things that happened, a few bad things and a couple of things described as ugly.

In the Bad section, we identified:

  • Time
  • Digital fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Aches & Pains
  • Relationships, and
  • Blurred boundaries

This week, DigiKnow looks at screen time, ‘the bads‘ and suggests some mindfulness tips to help combat some of these baddies. Let’s get started!

What is screen time?

This can be defined as any time you spend in front of a screen, whether it’s working on a computer, watching TV or gaming. In terms of physical output, the body requires very little energy during screen time. It’s a sedentary activity.

How much is too much?

This seems to be a hard question to answer and it’s most likely differs for most people. However, studies suggest children should have their screen time limited to 2 hours per day. Should this be the same for adults and how does that work? We lead busy lives of work / study, etc.

Work in conventionally a 9.00am to 5.00pm pattern (yes, we know that’s now in an ideal world). This is 8 hours per day and as much as 75% of the working day can be spent in front of a screen. That’s 6 hours with a few breaks thrown in. For many of us, that figure could be higher.

What about our social time? Try gauging how long your spend watching TV, using social media, zooming outside of work these days. How many hours do you think you spend on these activities? Be honest.

Let’s address some of those bads aforementioned above.

The bads
Time

Typically, we think we have all the time in the world to do stuff but that’s not true. There’s always deadlines, procrastination and mismanagement of time.

When teaching went online, many academics creating lectures, rendering them to video and uploading them for students to watch have discovered this is a very timely task. It’s not just delivering a lecture, it’s the post-processing and uploading to networks which are already stretched.

Another knock-on effect are the number of users also using the internet and uploading content to the same services. The work day has stretched well beyond the 9.00am-5.00pm routine as academics work later into the night to upload content when the internet and uploading services are ‘less busy’.

Digital fatigue

Part of this comes back to screen time. Our eyes get strained, vision blurs and although we’re not exerting ourselves physically, we can feel like we’ve done a manual days labour by the end of the work day.

Digital fatigue is really mental exhaustion which occurs due to the overuse of digital tools.

What can digital fatigue lead to? Studies suggest that this state of mind can result in a reduced capacity for work. Efficiency can be compromised and individuals can feel tired and weary. This can lead to disengagement. Sound familiar?

Anxiety

We can start to feel anxious when our devices don’t connect or the wi-fi slows done. During the pandemic, internet usage across the globe went up whilst the service slowed. It didn’t quite grind to a halt but it was frustrating when streaming and attempting to upload content. Everything took longer.

In todays’ world, the norm is instant. Instant access, delivery and good upload/download speeds. When the instants don’t happen, anxiety kicks in and stress levels go up.

Aches & Pains

When working at a computer or desk and not moving for long periods of time, you might have noticed some aches and pains creep in. This is due to the inactivity of the human body and the over time, it can lead to aches and pain.

It might be your posture is affected. Are you sitting properly? Do have a look at workstation training. Desktop machines have monitors which should be at eye level.

If using a wired mouse, shoulders can be tense. The mouse (wired or wireless) should be comfortably within an arms reach.

Bright glare from the screen can result in headache, etc. Think about screen contrast and brightness along with available lighting in your environment.

The chair should allow your thighs to be parallel to the floor and the desk should allow your forearms to be parallel also. Nothing should feel strained in this set up.

Laptops on the other hand are not as easy to arrange. The screen is lower. Users sometimes crouch over to use laptops or sit with poor posture with laptop on their knee. Necks are bent. This can lead to those aches and pains mentioned above.

Relationships

Too much time doing one of any activity can have a negative impact on the relationships around you.

Blurred boundaries

Finally, as there’s no longer a set work / study / social routine, the boundaries of our work / study days have merged with our personal lives. Do you find you are still working at 8pm (or later) at night? Do you get up early to ‘catch up’ with work / study before your colleagues are online?

You’ve relaxed your boundaries too much. This isn’t healthy as other impinge on your personal time due to you being ‘available’ online. State your office hours and stick to working during those times. Don’t be tempted to reply to an email after hours because it will only take 2 seconds. Before you know it, you’ll be drawn into work elsewhere.

Mindfulness tips

Now come some tips to help you with your screen time and the bads.

Firstly, mindfulness is being present in the moment. Knowing, seeing and feeling what is happening in this instant and being mindful of that experience. How does it feel reading these words? Do you already know the topic?

Slow down – you don’t have to do everything in a hurry. Whilst there may be deadlines for certain activities, being able to set 5 mins aside and plan for can help you prioritise what needs done and by when.

Notifications – these can be distracting and annoying when they pop up on screen. They take your attention away from what you were doing and can add to your stress levels. Decide how and when you want your notifications to appear. By lessening distractions, you can focus on the task at hand and get it done quicker.

Credit: Lukas Blazek
Credit: Lukas Blazek

Set an end time – this is part of the boundaries for work/study and social. If you say you’re only working to 3.00pm, then make sure you stop at 3.00pm. Electronic communications never stop and you can pick up from where you left off. Setting boundaries is confirming others expectations. If you are online 24/7, people expect it.

Social media isn’t an ‘escape’ – so you’ve finished work for the day, now what? Don’t stay online or if you do, set yourself an end time. Don’t fall into the habit of stopping work and remaining online all the time. This still adds to digital fatigue, aches and pains, anxiety. Why not reward yourself to some other activity that doesn’t involve screen time? Read a book. Go for a walk. Exercise. Have conversations with those around you. It will improve relationships and mindsets.

Credit: Benjamin Child
Credit: Benjamin Child

Meditate – some might see this as mind wandering. That’s ok. Others see meditation as focusing on one thing, i.e., breathing. And as you meditate, you may become aware the focus on your breathing has wondered. That’s OK too. Just bring your focus back to your breathing and as you notice your mind has wandered, just keep bringing it back to the focus on your breathe. Why is this good? Meditation can reduce blood pressure, anxiety and depression. Just clear your mind of the things which are cluttering it up. Breathe.

Diet – many consider diet to be what you eat and what you need in terms of nutrition. However, diet can be broadened and defined as anything and everything you do. Eating. Sleeping. Exercise. Habits. Do you have a good diet? Do you eat / sleep / exercise properly and regularly? Do you get the recommended amount of sleep or are you just getting by? You might need to rethink your diet.

Credit: Eaters Collective
Credit: Eaters Collective

Meal times – these should be regular. It might be an idea to put down devices and turn off screens to reduce distraction. This will give you some non-screen time to have conversation with those around you. Plan meals and set time aside for meal times. Don’t rush meals. Eat slowly and savour your food. Eat it mindfully. Note the taste and the texture. Keep it regular and don’t be tempted to leave the table before the allotted meal time is over. Give yourself that time to relax and digest.

Sleep – don’t use your devices in bed. The intention is to sleep. Mobile devices use blue light which reduces the production of melatonin. This affects your circadian rhythms and if the intention is to sleep, using this blue light makes it counter productive.

Credit: Daniel Salcius
Credit: Daniel Salcius

Nature – try spending some time outside in a local park. Just listen to the environment. Birds singing. The rustle of leaves. The sound of the sea. Breathe in that fresh air and enjoy the scenes. Leave your phone in the car or in your pocket. Live in the moment.

There’s plenty more mindfulness tips we could add in here, but in the interests of time (or lack of it), these are just a few tips you get your thinking about how you can reduce your screen time and the bad effects which can come with that.

Next time

Our blog post next Monday will look at hacking accessibility. By accessibility, we want to look at how to improve electronic communications which come in the form of PDF, Word documents and PowerPoint slides where the audience are students / work colleagues and the general public.

Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are now released at noon on a Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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